By some miracle, I was offered a website editor position with the Scottish Book Trust, which means I get to spend my professional days encouraging people to fall in love with reading and writing. For me, that’s basically the exact description of a dream job, so naturally Dear Husband and I wanted to go out and celebrate. We settled on the rather unimaginatively named Cafe Fish for a few reasons: 1. It’s local; 2. It’s a celebrated fish restaurant in a city that’s great for fish, and we love our seafood. Off we went.
In terms of decor, the place is…well, I guess it’s a tiny bit incongruous and odd. It’s housed in an old building that still has some old wood detailing around the room, but all the fittings, tables, and chairs are sleekly modern and a bit on the chilly side, being mostly metal and black plastic. My guess is they didn’t want the place to seem stuffy, and they accomplished that. Strangely, the setup works, though I feel like it would be a little less pleasant on a cold, gray winter’s night.
For us, the issues started early, and they were all about service. My husband’s drink was wrong–almost completely wrong. The waiter utterly disregarded about half of what he asked for, so that had to be sent back. My prosecco came out without incident, as did the glass of wine I had with my entree. Getting alcohol is no problem here, but if you want to have your water glass refilled, good luck. Ours were ignored completely; the only reason we got more water at all was because my husband managed to flag down another table’s waitress. The food was also interminably slow to come out. Normally I’d blame this on the kitchen, but I found it suspicious that another table had time to sit down, eat a two-course meal with wine, pay their bill and leave all before we’d managed to finish our entrees. And it’s not like they were speed eating either. There was probably a good 15-20 minute gap between when our appetizers were finished and our entrees appeared, which is absurd when you’re talking about fish served with sides that have, most likely, been prepped ahead of time. We got our puddings all right, but then the waiter, who’d been asked to bring the bill, disappeared completely. We never saw him again. The waitress at the table next to us brought the bill after we asked. I think this might have been the only time I’ve ever dined out and chosen not to leave a tip. I’ve waitressed in the past and I tend to be very forgiving and generous, but this service was terrible.
Food-wise, the place was all right. Our appetizers were quite delicious (a crab salad with heirloom tomatoes for me, cured trout with beets for him) and my entree (sea bass with spiced aubergine) was lovely both in flavor and appearance. My husband’s entree of roasted cod, which cost an extra 2 pounds supplement, was a near complete disappointment. The cod was dull, just a roasted slab of fish that had been seasoned, certainly nothing I couldn’t have made at home. The flabby skin on it was unappealing, as was the overly wet puree it perched on, which was as inspiring as the wet sponge it resembled. It gave both of us a definite sad, because cod is a beautiful fish that can stand up to some great flavors, and they just did nothing with it. My pudding — bramble frangipane tart with ginger ice cream, was nice, with decent flaky pastry and a clean ginger flavor to the ice cream that nicely complimented the rich brambles.
Cafe Fish is only one of many, many seafood restaurants around town, and it’s not one we intend to return to when the competition is so high and so good. The prices seemed steep (22 pounds for 2 courses), especially when you can go to somewhere like Angels with Bagpipes for 16 pounds for three courses, and probably get a much better dining experience. Several of the items on the menu cost extra, and I suspect they charged us for a second basket of bread (which we only needed because of the long wait between courses) — there was a mysterious additional 3 pound charge on the bill we couldn’t account for, but since it had been such a struggle to get the bill in the first place, we just let it go and went home, somewhat the wiser.